Sunday, February 18, 2007

How Wenonah is Laid Out

Wenonah is a small town. Before we join my youthful self in 1958 you should know how it's laid out. It's bisected east and west by the West Jersey Railroad, a now mostly unused railroad line that was in fact the reason the town was built. North and south it's cut in half by Mantua Ave., the main street of Wenonah, which turns into Wenonah Ave. when it rolls into the adjacent town, Mantua. The northern end of town is bordered by Woodbury/Glassboro Road and the southern end by the Mantua Creek which orginates in the Delaware, a few miles upstream.
The town is surrounded on the eastern, southern, and western borders by a small woodland area. This area is called the Wenonah Woods and was purchased through a gift by a local naturalist in the early 1970's. Here is a link to the google map of the town:,-75.153351&spn=0.066082,0.154495&om=1
Mantua, the town on the southern edge was a largely Italian working class community. Just past Mantua farms stretched for miles and miles. Tomatoes and peaches as far as the eye could see. The northern, eastern, and western edges were part of Deptford Township. Deptford was an amalgam of small settlements and suburban developments that in the 1960's began to grow. The area directly east of Wenonah in Deptford was known to us as Jericho. It was an African American community with long standing roots. When I was young it was mostly working class black people. People in Wenonah didn't talk to people in Jericho. More on that later.
The next town up the road on the eastern side was Woodbury Heights, then Woodbury. My father lived in Woodbury as a teenager and it was this connection that led us to Wenonah. My father moved our family from a Levittown development outside of Philadelphia in 1957, first to a rental property in Woodbury, and then to Wenonah. None of us live in Wenonah now but all of us carry pieces of it with us. You don't really get to leave Wenonah.
We moved to Wenonah just after my Kindergarten year in Woodbury. Our family consisted of my father, John Sr, my mother, Louise, and my brothers, Ted and Mick. More accurately, Edward and Michael. Ted was the baby and Mick was a year and half younger than I. My father's parents helped him with the downpayment on the mortgage and so we came to Wenonah.
We first saw the house about a month before we moved. My father showed us the treehouse in the back, the yard, the neighborhood, the damp basement, the spacious rooms. We were used to moving (this was our third since I'd been born) so it seemed like no biggie. Mick and I were excited. I have no idea what our parents thought. That brings us then to August of 1958 and my first days in Wenonah. You'll have to wait a bit for more. In the meantime if any folks that lived in Wenonah would like to contribute memories or photos let's find a way to link them up. This isn't just my story. I know my friend Bob Thomas remembers way more than I do and I don't know anything the adults thought about. I hope you'll find a way to mash these things together.

1 comment:

Jim Maddox said...

I met Jack Wiler for the first time in September of 1964, when the kids of 4 small towns were sent to a new high school, Gateway Regional. I knew I liked this guy right away. In the confusion and frustration of being separated from the comfort of hometown friends, here was a stranger I could connect with. Somehow I knew we were kindred spirits,and from reading his blog I now see that all along we grew up with similar emotions and experiences just a few short miles away. We were small town South Jersey boys born in December and molded by our parents with love and discipline. We were not close friends in high school, but we enjoyed each other's company and conversation. Our greatest adventure together took us to the Vietnam war protest in Washington D.C. in the fall of 1969. I don't think we told anyone what we were doing. I forced my brother to give me his railroad pass so Jack could ride free too. For one day at least, we truly were brothers. I don't remember much about what we heard that day, but it was exciting. I will be entering Jack's world where I feel that my life experiences closely parallel his. It seems we were destined to meet in 1964 and become re-acquainted once again. Cheers, old friend.